Report: Almost half of California’s salmon and trout to be extinct before 2070

U.C. Davis and CalTrout study claims 45 percent freshwater fish species will disappear within 50 years.

STATEWIDE — Nearly half of California’s most common freshwater fish species probably won’t exist anymore by 2067 if the current trajectory is not reversed, a joint report issued by California Trout (CalTrout) and U.C. Davis’s Center for Watershed Studies claimed. The report was published May 16.

Researchers stated 45 percent of California’s salmonids are likely to be extinct within the next 50 years. Climate change is cited as the primary culprit of why fish species such as salmon, steelhead and trout are on the verge of disappearing entirely.

“State of the Salmonids II: Fish in Hot Water” specifically stated 27 of 31 fish species in California are threatened by climate change. Only one fish species – the coastal rainbow trout – is considered a “low threat” from the impacts of climate change.

“The majority of salmonid species in California is currently facing, or is likely to face, extinction from climate change if present trends continue,” researchers stated in their report.

A blog post written by researchers associated with U.C. Davis’s Center for Watershed Sciences listed the fish species most likely to be extinct.

“Species most likely to disappear from California included coho salmon, chum salmon, pink salmon, Sacramento winter-run Chinook salmon, two distinct populations of spring-run Chinook salmon, two distinct populations of summer steelhead, steelhead of the south coast, California golden trout, Kern River rainbow trout, and McCloud River redband trout,” Robert Lusardi, Peter Moyle, Patrick Samuel and Jacob Katz wrote in their blog.

“The ‘State of the Salmonids II’ report makes it clear that many native salmonids in California are on a trajectory towards extinction, if present trends continue,” researchers continued.

Six variables were listed as the main environmental threats to salmonid species: lack of cold water, low and variable stream flows, constricted habitat, reduced habitat suitability, food web alteration and rising sea levels.

The situation, though dire, is not necessarily a death sentence, according to the published study, as researchers stated action could be taken now to ensure future survival of the species in question.

“Salmon, steelhead, and trout have adapted to a wide variety of climatic conditions in the past, and could likely survive substantial changes to climate in the absence of other human-caused stressors,” researchers stated in the May 16 study. “By taking actions to reduce the threats identified in this report, allowing salmonid species access to a variety of high-quality habitats at appropriate times, and increasing population abundance, species resilience to climate change can be improved.”

The study, which is a follow-up to a similar study conducted in 2008, suggested the threatened species could survive if watersheds, water sources and habitats are all properly managed.

“Improving salmonid status throughout California requires protecting and restoring the places that matter most and promoting strategies that will increase salmonid diversity and resiliency,” researchers stated.

Visit to view the study.

John McMillan/NOAA photo

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